Tall granite sculptures dot a garden overflowing with greenery. A dozen chickens strut aimlessly while a cover of Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin’” plays in the background to ward off foxes. Right across a dirt road, a stunning granite quarry and pool reflects the garden and trees around it.
The garden is part of Obadiah Buell’s home and livelihood at the quarry. The chickens? Their eggs help support his sustainable lifestyle, which his life and business partner Kelly Dean calls “wicked simple.” The sculptures are his craft.
“The idea is that the sculptures are supporting this dream of creating a center of sustainable living,” Buell said.
Buell and his two employees use a truck to haul huge chunks of granite from the quarry, piling them on the side of the pit full of rock. Some of the stone will be chiseled and shaped into garden sculptures.
“The land is just full of this type of stone that is just waiting to be hauled out and stood up,” Buell said. “Lots of the pieces that I work with are recycled from the quarry, so these were here over a 100 years ago.”
In Sullivan, granite quarrying began in the 1830s, and by 1887 there were six major quarries in the area, according to an article in The Ellsworth American.
Buell’s not new to the industry, either. He was born in the quarry, just up the road from his current sculpture garden. He said he remembers biking around the area and playing in the quarry as a child, but he didn’t start working with stone until after he turned 20. Instead, he worked in his family’s fireworks business.
When the family enterprise couldn’t keep up with foreign competitors, he switched to quarrying.
“It’s such a great opportunity and resource,” Buell said. “It’s what I grew up around.”
Buell said he learned processing and systemizing through making fireworks. Hundreds of handwritten pages in three full binders detail the steps to create each of his stone pieces, complete with diagrams and a table of contents. To keep up with business, Buell wakes up at 5:30 a.m. and often works until 8 p.m., Dean said.
“I wear a lot of hats,” Buell said. “In the evenings, I put on my maintenance hat to keep everything going.”
In Buell’s free time, he goes mountain biking on the trails he created over the years around the quarry. He and Dean often wake up early to do yoga or exercise before they start work.
Their two-room cabin just behind Buell’s work area and garden is part of their model of sustainable living, where they use an outhouse instead of a bathroom and grow most of their own food. Buell runs his tractor and truck on biodiesel, fuel created from grease he picks up at local restaurants.
Living on the quarry is a childhood dream come true, Dean said.
“Isn’t it magical?” Dean said. “I call this place Oz. [Buell] just reminds me of the Wizard, and I could be Glinda.”
A small shop near the garden is filled with Buell’s work, but his artwork also is displayed in 40 galleries throughout Maine, including the SevenArts Gallery in Ellsworth.
The sculpture garden and shop are “always open,” and Dean said she greets visitors any time she sees a car drive up the road. She hopes guests will visit the quarry and sculpture garden in the summer just to enjoy its beauty, go swimming and eat lunch.
“In the summer it’s nice and warm, and it’s just a different feeling,” Buell said.
Stone Designs Inc.
Where: 228 Whales Back Road, Sullivan
Contact: 442-3111, www.stonedesignsmaine.com
On View Too: SevenArts Gallery, 192 Main St.,
Ellsworth (667-1968, www.sevenartsmaine.com)
Make It Yourself: Obadiah Buell gives workshops and classes on working with stone, glass, metal and jewelry-making. Groups and individuals can call to register or schedule an event.
More on quarrying: www.quarriesandbeyond.org